Saint Sister at The National Concert Hall 7th June 2017

It’s almost hard to believe that Saint Sister formed as recently as 2014. The duo have since supported the likes of Arcade Fire’s Will Butler, played knock out performances at Glastonbury and Electric Picnic, as well as a stunning set on RTÉ’S Other Voices. The National Concert Hall hosted the pair, along with support from I Have A Tribe, on Wednesday evening.

The NCH is an atmospheric and charmingly ghostly venue, rendering it fitting for such an ethereal performance. The venue tends to draw the type of crowd who are willing to forego conversations with their pals in order to shut up and take in the music, and thankfully this evening was no different. Blending brass tones, delicate harp lines, and deeply impressive vocal harmonies, Saint Sister curated an evening of elegant musicianship.

To open proceedings, I Have A Tribe took to the stage. From the opening chords played centre stage on electric keyboard, the room sat upright and paid attention. His whimsical charm juxtaposing delicate piano accompaniment was all at once inclusive and impressive. If any of that were to fail, there was always an adorable lullaby written for his niece.

The setting altered for the main act of the evening, and as Saint Sister took to the stage it became clear that this performance was meticulously considered. Encompassing a chamber of 6 backup vocalists, a bass guitar, percussion, keyboard and brass section, the sound was rich and full, soaring through the stunning acoustics of the venue.

Moments of quiet, such as a whispered metre of ‘one, two, three, four…’ into the mic, echoed throughout the space, drawing attention to the precise nature of the performance, and how throughout the entire evening, not a note fell out of place.

Highlights of the expansive fifteen song set were plentiful. Through dedicating a beautiful performance of Be The Witch to the women in the audience, it was impossible not to associate such a cutting and empowering piece with current conversations surrounding Irish women. With many a REPEAL jumper spotted in the foyer, it’s easy to imagine their wearers sensing this same tone of sisterhood and solidarity. Its themes of womanhood, trappings, and freedom were delivered with both grace and urgency, and it was clear that every seat in the house felt the weight of these subjects.

Also particularly arresting was the duo’s performances of Corpses. Along with their small chorus of backing singers, the vocal performance here was stunning. All vocalists could jump from harmonic soars to tender whispers in a beat, rendering each short silence between notes weighted.

Towards the end of the set, a visibly moved Gemma Doherty introduced Lisa Hannigan to the stage, where the three vocalists performed Anahorish from Hannigan’s choice nominated At Swim. The trio delivered a remarkable performance of the acapella piece, before tackling Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne in three part harmony. However wonderful the idea of that sounds, the reality of it was even more so.

Having spotted cameras on and around the stage, we can only hope that the live performance will be available to view at some point in the future. For those who were there, it was an unforgettable display of Irish talent on our national stage, worthy of ascending to international acclaim.

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